The role of conservation and farm production are often joined in policy with the emphasis of stewardship that goes along with production agriculture.
Yet, as debate begins anew for the farm bill, a new report from USDA's Economic Research Service shows the importance of the tie between farm-program payments and conservation compliance.
The report cited that 31% of farmers received some type of commodity payment, conservation payment or both. The other way to look at it is that 69% of people classified by USDA as farmers were not involved in any of the major USDA farm or conservation programs.
As the ERS highlighted in a brief report Monday, 15% of U.S. farms, covering 29% of the nation's farm ground, receive only commodity payments, without adding conservation programs to the land. The report updates numbers from previous analysis ERS has done on the topic. The ERS article only shows percentages and not actual acreage numbers. At 29% of the land, that would translate into an estimated 100 million acres covered with solely commodity payments, based on NASS acreage reports for major commodities.
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About 10% of farmers and 10% of farm ground is covered solely by conservation programs. That would be about 35 million acres.
The report shows 6% of farms, accounting for 20% of the nation's farm ground, has a combination of both commodity and conservation payments. So about 70 million acres would receive combined payments.
Based on those ERS figures, that would translate into about 205 million acres that are covered by either commodity or conservation programs. It also would mean 130 million acres are not covered by either program.
The acreage numbers covered seem low, however. Corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton alone will combine for 241 million acres this year, out of about 335 million USDA anticipates will be planted. That doesn't include most fruit and vegetable acreage, which also could be enrolled in conservation programs.
USDA has different reports citing commercial fruit and vegetable crop acreage annually at around 8.6 million acres. Fruit trees account for another 4 million acres.
Thus, it would be good if these snippets of detail not only provide the percentages of farmers and acres in programs, but also the actual hard numbers. If I were really longing for the information, I'd also like to see those figures broken down by state as well.
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